Critics' Picks 2010: books

From samurais to dysfunctional relationships, this year’s best book list includes serious reads and fun times, too.

Alexander MacLeod, Light Lifting (Biblioasis)
MacLeod's evocative short stories capture the motion (athletic competition, youthful thrill-seeking, chasing after kids, working), the emotions, motivations and meanings to these movements. –SF

Amy Sedaris, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People (Grand Central Publishing)
Amy, get your glue gun. Crafting for Jesus? Beer-cap and pipe-cleaner castanets? The queen of wacky delivers a crafting book that won't make you feel shitty about your inadequacies, plus it includes tips from Neil Patrick Harris and Cindy Sherman. –SCF

Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Boxset (Oni Press)
If you don't already own all of the books in the Scott Pilgrim series, I pity and envy you. Pity, because it means your life has been lacking the melee-brawl style fun the series delivers, and envy because you have the perfect excuse to buy the new box set with its adorable eight-bit collage of the entire cast. –SFay

Emma Donoghue, Room (HarperCollins)
Perhaps the bravest literature to appear this year. Donoghue takes the tough sell of a young boy, who lives in a locked room with his Ma and has never seen outside, and transforms it into an international bestseller. –SCF

Gary Geddes, Swimming Ginger (Goose Lane)
Evoking the streets and intersections (of lives) in a 12th-century Chinese city, Geddes' narrative poems tie then and there with here and now. –SF

Jeff Miller, Ghost Pine: All Stories True (Invisible)
If you're a good storyteller, it doesn't matter if your work appears in a book, a blog or on a paper napkin. That's why the Invisible adaptation of Mills' long-running zine works so well. Simply, Miller is a straight-up talented writer. –SCF

Kathleen Winter, Annabel (Anansi)
A new Atlantic Canadian classic by another talented Winter sibling, fans of Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees should grab this book about gender identity and family ties, set in remote Labrador. –SCF

Kevin Bloom, Ways of Staying (Portobello)
The Johannesburg journalist sets aside the World Cup football fever pitch to focus on a (if not the) South African's state of being. –SF

Osamu Tezuka, Ayako (Vertical)
Ayako is a drama from Osamu Tezuka following a wealthy family's fall from grace in post-WWII Japan. While Tezuka may be known more for his kiddie fare like Astro Boy, he doesn't pull any punches when it comes to his adult works so have a box of tissues ready. –SFay

Naoki Urasawa, Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, Vol. 7-12 (VIZ Media)
As kids, Kenji and his friends pretended to be heroes fighting an evil organization. Now all grown-up, the gang is thrown back together when a series of events eerily mimic their childhood games. 20th Century Boys is a gripping conspiracy story with likable, human characters at its centre. –SFay

Natsume Ono, House of Five Leaves, Vol. 1 (VIZ Media)
A laidback samurai manga with simple and clean art. Like the characters it reveals more and more upon each re-reading. –SFay

Sarah Selecky, This Cake is for the Party (Thomas Allen)
The most delicious collection of short stories to appear on shelves in 2010, the surprise Giller shortlisted author is a superb craftsperson and observer of contemporary culture. –SCF

Sharon McCartney, For & Against (Goose Lane)
Reflecting on a failed marriage, McCartney writes incisively for and against but on the many positions between those two poles, too. –SF

Steve McOrmond, The Good News About Armageddon (Brick)
The end of things, people, life and times begin with the beginning, a truth illuminated and celebrated in Steve McOrmond's warm, erudite verse. –SF

Wednesday Comics, Hardcover Edition (DC Comics)
The perfect blend of nostalgia and innovation, Wednesday Comics contains over a dozen stories by some of the biggest names in comics such as Neil Gaiman and Paul Pope. It's a treat for any superhero fan. –SFay

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